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Fri 7 Feb 2014 02:25 AM

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Oman hires Italian consultants for $15bn railway plans

Italferr appointed to provide consultancy services in $35m deal; project tenders to be floated soon

Oman hires Italian consultants for $15bn railway plans
Workers install the first track of the new French high speed train (TGV) Lyon-Strasbourg line in Les Magny, eastern France, on June 29, 2009. The line will be opened in 2011. AFP PHOTO SEBASTIEN BOZON (Photo credit should read SEBASTIEN BOZON/AFP/Getty Images)

Oman has signed a OR13.5 million ($35.2 million) agreement with an Italian company to provide consultancy services for the sultanate's $15.5 billion railway project.

The deal with railway engineers Italferr was one of three signed by Dr Ahmed bin Mohammed al-Futaisi, Oman's Minister of Transport and Communications in relation to the initial phase of the rail project.

He said that the pre-qualification tender for contractors will be floated soon, with the first contractor awarded the deal early in 2015.

Oman’s plans for a 2,244km railway network across the Sultanate is part of a regional railway network expected to link the six Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries.

Other smaller agreements were signed with Abu Taman Grant Thornton related to developing the organisational structure of the Omani Railway Company and with Dar al Takwwn Advertising Agency for the brand identity and trademark of the company.

Al-Futaisi said in comments published by Oman News Agency that field works have already started including many geographic and geologic surveys.

Under the agreements, Omani engineers will be trained to in Rome next month for them to qualify and become "the nucleus of Oman Railway Company".

The rail project will help Omani ports to become major hubs and foster trade movement in the sultanate, the agency said.

Oman, which exports modest amounts of oil and will face challenges in financing its state budget and generating employment for its citizens in coming years, has said it expects its railway network to be fully operational by 2018.

The railway could help to diversify Oman's economy beyond oil and gas by facilitating trade and industrial projects, while increasing the geopolitical security of Gulf Arab states by giving them a major trade route bypassing the Strait of Hormuz.

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